Funding for academic research will have to be stepped up by HK$550 million to HK$650 million to attract scholars for the switch to four-year undergraduate degrees, the head of the Research Grants Council says. Roland Chin Tai-hong, chairman of the semi-autonomous body under the University Grants Committee, said 1,000 more professors would have to be hired by 2012. The council advises the government on the needs of higher educational institutions in academic research and the distribution of funding for research projects. A corresponding 1,500 research students - those doing master's of philosophy and doctoral degrees - would have to be recruited, which would cost the government between HK$300 million and HK$400 million a year, Professor Chin said. He said the government spends about HK$1 million a year supporting three research students. The amount covers research costs, including wages for research students and the maintenance of facilities such as laboratories. Professor Chin, also the acting vice-president for academic affairs at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said research students were indispensable for maintaining a good research environment. 'Good academics will come only if we have good students,' he said. 'They may leave if they can't develop their research.' Professor Chin added that grants for research projects would have to be increased by an annual HK$250 million to cater for an influx of scholars by 2012. He said the Research Grants Council receives HK$600 million from the government a year. Meanwhile, he said he hoped the government would support establishing fellowships in a year or two to encourage the pursuit of doctoral degrees in Hong Kong. The fellowships, which he expected would cost a few million Hong Kong dollars, would allow students to gain research experience abroad after they have completed their PhDs in Hong Kong. Professor Chin said he was confident the government would devote more funds to academic research, adding that local universities should recruit academics for the new structure from abroad and avoid scrambling for professors locally, which might push up salaries.